***Meaning of Mee Pok Tar updated thanks to commenters J and Melisa below. Thank you for the help!
Hey hey American friends! I know the title to this post is completely foreign. Let me explain.
Mee Pok means flat noodles, and tah means dry–it being a dry noodle dish instead of a soup-like dish. Chia Keng Kway Teow Mee is the name of the noodle (mee) stall. Kway Teow is the name of a different noodle dish I will share with you some day. Chia Keng is the name of the village in which the owner first set up shop 50 years ago. He is pictured below, in a photo from the blog IeatIshootIpost.sg. This blog is the reason I went way out of my way today to Ang Mo Kio, a neighborhood 30+ minutes bus ride northwest of my home, to eat lunch. He is 75 now, and retiring this year, if he hasn’t already. He was not there today.
I’m lucky I got to eat here at all, as they are closed quite often. I suppose after making food for 50 years you can decide when to be open and when to just chill. Anyway, I paid my S$4.50, waited 5 minutes for it to be prepared, and sat down to inspect the varied ingredients in my bowl.
Part of the charm of a food centre meal is the no frills atmosphere. A simple table, not always clean, and plastic bowls and chopsticks, clean enough, is what you get when you pay the equivalent of about $3 for a freshly cooked meal. The amazing thing is the caliber of some of these dishes. When the stall operator puts his heart into a dish, you can taste it. I pushed away the remains of the meal leftover from the last occupant of the table (it was very busy that day and the clean-up crew was not able to keep up really well) and got settled in with the latest issue of The Economist, whose articles always seem to capture my attention.
So let’s eat. I first noticed the prawn staring up at me.
I removed him and put him under the side of my bowl so I could eat without being watched. Then I tasted the side bowl of broth. It had a lovely flavor, maybe a bit sweet for me, but nice. Then I tasted what might have been abalone. I liked it. I can see the draw (super popular out here–especially during Chinese New Year–and it can be very expensive). It tasted like a combination of fish and chicken.
Then I went for the slice of brown mushroom. Meh. It was ok, a bit chewy. Then I tasted the pork which was soft and bland, but not bad. Then I tried the piece of fried pork lard. It melted in my mouth and also was not bad. I would eat it again, though the thought of just eating deep fried fat was weird.
I ate a big chunk of the egg noodles after the pork lard…SO GOOD! They were not mushy at all and the black sauce with chili left the perfect amount of heat in my mouth as I ate.
There also seemed to be some fried onions or shallots in the mix which added an occasional crunch. The fish balls were fine but the slices of fish cake were great. The greens were bitter but added a great fresh element—I just wish there were more of them included. A lot of food centre dishes seem to be like this, a lot of noodles and meat, with a token vegetable that almost acts more like a garnish.
As you can see, I really did not enjoy the dish at all. ;)
I finished off my lunch on this 30 degree Celcius day (86 F) with a bowl of chilled blueberry bean curd. It is the lightest, silkiest tofu and is so refreshing after a hot meal on a warm day.
Today was a little piece of heaven at a hawker centre. Can’t wait to take some visiting friends there soon. Hint hint hint to all you Americans reading this!
Want to try it yourself? Try this recipe, though a few ingredients will be hard to source. You will get close though even if using substitutes.